South Surrey and White Rock BC Liberals spent significantly more than their opponents on their way to winning both provincial ridings in the 2020 election.
According to financial reports posted on the Elections BC website Feb. 1, Surrey-White Rock MLA, BC Liberal Trevor Halford spent the most during the election period – $59,798.20. Independent Megan Knight spent $17,554.20, NDP’s Bryn Smith spent $8,665.54, Green Party candidate Beverly (Pixie) Hobby spent $1,795.82 and Libertarian Jason Bax spent $1,580.41.
While Elections BC reports that Halford’s “total expenditures” in the BC election was $78,852.21, his financial agent Gordon Schoberg told Peace Arch News that number is not reflective of what was spent, because approximately $19,000 was transferred back to the party.
Instead of relying on the “total expenditures” number, PAN instead added the total value of expenses subject to limits with the total value of election expenses not subject to limits to come up with a final figure.
BC Elections communications director Andrew Watson said that number would be most reflective of what was spent during the election.
“Those are election expenses. That would include any goods or services used in one way or another to promote their candidacy,” Watson said. “I think if you used the (total expenditures), it would include transfers and other things which may be a bit misleading because it’s not money they’re spending or goods and services they’re using.”
The final number excludes expenses not used during the campaign period.
Halford won the election with 10,718 votes (39.51 per cent), followed by Smith with 10,494 votes (38.69 per cent), Hobby 3,862 votes (14.24 per cent), Knight with 1,607 (5.92 per cent), and Bax with 443 (1.64 per cent).
In the Surrey South riding, using the same formula as above, incumbent BC Liberal MLA Stephanie Cadieux spent $39,056.31 during the campaign, while her opponents, BC NDP Pauline Greaves spent $7,718.32, Green Party candidate Tim Ibbotson spent $1,120.48.
Cadieux won the election with 12,970 votes (47.36 per cent), followed by Greaves with 11,794 votes (43.06 per cent) and Ibbotson with 2,623 votes (9.58 per cent).
Calling a snap election in October 2020 netted Premier John Horgan’s B.C. NDP more than $2 million in election expense reimbursements, while the B.C. Liberals collected more than $1.5 million and the B.C. Greens got back more than $300,000.
Election expense reimbursements are issued on top of the per-vote subsidy paid to parties each year in a program brought in by Horgan’s minority government in 2017, to replace revenue from corporate and union donations. Those were banned by the NDP changes, and Horgan’s pre-election vow not to use public subsidies was reversed after the election, in a bill that ended up being supported by all parties.
Financing reports released Monday by Elections B.C. showed the governing NDP received $2.15 million in reimbursed expenses. The party received $5.45 million in political contributions, but with the taxpayer subsidy, the party was able to spend $7.6 million to win a majority government in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The B.C. Liberals were reimbursed $1.55 million in election expenses, and collected $3.2 million in contributions from individuals, which are capped at $1,200 per person per year under the 2017 changes to the B.C. Election Act. Including transfers of public money, the B.C. Liberals spent $6.37 million in an election that saw them take 28 seats to the B.C. NDP’s 57-seat majority.
The B.C. Green Party was reimbursed $300,774.59 for its election expenses, after raising $1.24 million in donations from individuals. The new financing system allowed them to spend $1.41 million on their 2020 election campaign, where the two incumbent MLAs, Cowichan Valley MLA Sonia Furstenau and Saanich and the Islands MLA Adam Olsen retained their seats.
– With files from Tom Fletcher